The prospect of having to cut through government red tape recently prompted Columbia County officials to reconsider how to spend federal funds for road projects.
Officials had hoped to receive federal stimulus funds to improve some area intersections. Now, those officials want to use those dollars on repaving projects.
The prospect of conducting environmental and right-of-way studies to satisfy federal Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Transportation requirements for the intersection improvements seemed too daunting, said Matt Schlachter, interim director of the county Construction and Maintenance Services Division.
"There's a lot of documentation you have to provide to use federal money," Schlachter explained. "We just didn't feel we had enough time to complete all the requirements."
To qualify for the potential $2.5 million in stimulus funds, projects had to be obligated -- money earmarked, contractors chosen, etc. -- by the end of the year. Another requirement is that all the funds must be spent by February 2012.
Because environmental studies and additional rights-of-way are not needed for resurfacing projects, Schlachter said officials decided to use stimulus money to repave some county roads. They still plan to conduct the intersection improvements using 1-cent sales tax dollars.
"We refocused where our county dollars are going to be spent," he said. "Instead of spending county dollars on resurfacing and our federal money on intersection improvements, we're now going to spend our federal money on resurfacing and county money on intersections."
About $2.35 million in SPLOST funds is set aside for intersection improvements on Flowing Wells Road and at Hardy McManus and Furys Ferry roads, Schlachter said.
There is an added bonus on using sales tax money on the intersections, he said.
"Using county money, the regulations aren't as strict," he said. "We don't have as many documents to fill out. We don't have to go through as complicated of a review process. We can get the job done with less money and quicker."
Roads to be resurfaced using stimulus funds include Flowing Wells, South Old Belair, Evans-to-Locks, Old Evans and Furys Ferry roads.
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